Once upon a time (just last night – Christmas Eve, 2015), in a land far, far away (about 35 miles from my home) … I saw God!
It started out like many holiday gatherings; one that has it’s usual assortment of aunts and uncles and cousins and, in our case, a healthy smattering of friends who may not share our “blood line,” but who never the less belong with us – and to us.
Our clan has grown seemingly over night, with several of us now elevated to “greatness,” as in great-grandmother and great-aunt. The children showed off their children, who in turn showed off their new husbands and boyfriends. Babies bounced from lap to lap and toddlers were given free reign to run and explore.
Little boys who were just children a minute ago somehow became teenagers when we weren’t looking. Little girls who once huddled together in their own cliques away from the adults were now adults themselves, sharing stories of their careers and goals, their successes and struggles, seeing each other with the new eyes of maturity. And of course a “new” crop of little girls are waiting in the wings to take up where the now 20-something cousins left off.
We had other guests this year as well; uninvited guests who profoundly made their presence known. Illness, absence, traumatic events, our limited mortality all sat right down at the table as if they belonged. You know you can’t avoid these “party crashers,” so you may as well scoot over and make room for them. They are, after all, the harbingers of what the circle brings – life, death, then life again as we make our way through.
They can truly be harsh, but as strange as it may sound, for once I saw that they’d brought an incredibly special gift with them. Their “present” was the present ..clearly understanding how now – in this present moment we have the chance to hug and kiss and laugh and joke and eat and drink together – knowing full well we won’t look the same next year. It’s not that we don’t “want” to, but because it just doesn’t work that way.
We can never re-create the special moment of right now. Nothing stands in freeze-frame except photographs. Life will undulate; its pitch will increase and decrease without a care of what we want – how much we want things to stay the way they are and never ever change. Perhaps it’s my age. Perhaps it’s because I’m further down the road which gives one a unique perspective (if one “chooses” to see) that made me realize that as I embraced my family, both in
welcome – then in goodbye, it was actually “God” hugging me.
It was God’s warmth radiating to me and through me, extending to such a depth of love that it had to be a much more numinous exchange than I could ever conjure up on my own. Yes, that was surely “God-with-us” this Christmas Eve. That was surely what this holiday is all about – what all the church services, and Christmas carols and nativity scenes and other gestures of affection try to convey – but so often miss the mark.
Recognizing this present in the present is surely the only way we can ever end the story with:
“…and they all lived happily ever after.”
(Breviary, O Antiphons)
“You have come near, God-with us.
Not only made your home among us,
You have come to dwell within us,
Making of our heart a habitat of divinity.”
This post is part of our reflections for Advent 2016.